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My View: Inside The New York Pops 39th Birthday Gala

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Carnegie Hall was like a bottle of champagne going “POP” on New Years Eve as Maestro Steven Reineke’s baton signaled the start of The New York Pops 39th Birthday Gala Concert.  The program featured the songs of Music Honorees Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez.

Kristen & Bobby Lopez are the Oscar and Grammy winning, songwriting team behind the Disney animated films, Frozen and Frozen 2.  Together they also wrote the Oscar winning song “Remember Me”. Robert co-conceived and co-wrote the hit musicals Avenue Q and The Book Of Mormon, both earning him Tony Awards.

The spectacular concert was followed by a glorious dinner/dance at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  The evening also honored: Nicola M. Heryet, Corporate Honoree, John Osborn, Corporate Honoree, June Freemanzon, Legacy Honoree, and Ron Schaefer, PopsEd Honoree.

New York Pops subscribers and all music loving New Yorkers were awaiting the return of New York’s Orchestra and it’s charismatic music director/conductor Steven Reineke and the night truly felt like a New Years Eve celebration. 

It was literally a who’s who of the music, theatre, and corporate world at the concert and dinner and they, along with all the guest artists danced the night away.  A New York Pops Gala has to be one of the most exciting events in NYC. 

Guest Artists performing The Songs of Kristen & Bobby Lopez were, Samantha Barks, Jennifer Barnhart, Kristen Bell, Jamie Camil, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Santino Fontana, Josh Gad, Jordan Gelber, Ann Harada, Nikki M. James, Mykal Kilgore, Maggie Lakis, Cassie Levy, Rick Lyon, Rob McClure, Patti Murin, Andrew Rannells, Betsy Wolfe.

Stephen studied at the Manhattan School of Music. Besides being a pianist, Stephen’s business career was in the Fashion Industry. He was CEO of a textile manufacturing facility and President of an international textile machinery company. Stephen was on the Board of Directors of the “First All Children’s Theatre” which brought the Stephen Schwartz musical The Trip and Captain Louie to the Kennedy Center in Wash DC. His wife Eda, an interior space designer and classical pianist was on the Board of Barrington Stage Company and is still active at BSC. Stephen’s photographs, videos and articles appear on Broadwayworld.com, T2Conline.com and The New York Observer. He is active in the entertainment events at the Friars Club, where he is a member. Stephen is also an Honorary Board Member of The Society For The Preservation of The Great American Songbook. Stephen Sorokoff@gmail.com

Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sweeney Todd’s New Cast

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Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster joined the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd February 9th, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. They replaced Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford, who both earned 2023 Tony nominations for their leading performances in the production.

The Tony Award winning Tveit stepped into the role of Sweeney Todd, which is his first Broadway role since he originated the lead, Christian, in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. He is also known for his performances in Wicked, Catch Me If You Can, Hairspray, and Rent. Tveit has also portrayed several musical theatre roles on screen, such as Enjolras in the film adaptation of Les Misérables (2012), as well as Danny Zuko in Fox’s Grease: Live (2016). In television, he was Gareth Ritter on BrainDead, Tripp van der Bilt on Gossip Girl, Mike Warren on Graceland, and Danny Bailey/Topher in Schmigadoon!.

Foster’s last Broadway role was Marian Paroo in the 2021 revival of The Music Man, which earned her a Tony nomination the following year. She has earned six additional nominations and she is a two-time Tony winner for Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes. Her other credits include Violet and Little Women. In 2016, she starred opposite Aaron Tveit and Betty Buckley in the Stephen Schwartz revue Defying Gravity in Australia. She appeared in the Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity and was in the miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life opposite her ex-husband, Christian Borle. She made guest appearances on The Good Wife and Mad Dogs, she is known for her role as Liza Miller in Younger. A month earlier she wow’d audiences as Winfred in the Encore production of Once Upon A Mattress.

Now the two are winning raves in this macabre masterpiece of musical theatre,

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Cabaret

My View: Carole J. Bufford…”You Don’t Know Me”. ( Now We Do)

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Her show is titled “You Don’t Own Me” and if anyone in the Palm Beach audience didn’t know Carole J. Bufford before, they certainly do now after her exciting performance last night at Cafe Centro.

Carole J. Bufford, award-winning cabaret star and powerhouse vocalist, returned to Cafe Centro last night with a tribute to the fearless, fabulous females of the 1960s. With the music made famous by Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Carole King, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Nancy Sinatra, Cher, and more, Carole and her quartet put their own inimitable spin on those great song classics in her show You Don’t Own Me. Her electrifying  musical tour de force celebrated a time of great change and transition in America and across the pond.

As Carole noted, the musical and cultural landscape was never the same after these bold and daring women planted their flags and ensured their voices were heard.  Well, Carole Bufford’s voice was authoritatively heard in West Palm Beach last night as she took charge of each song and brought the music of the 60’s back to life.  The moveable spot in the club illuminated this dynamic entertainer thrilling each table in a room filled with her Palm Beach fans.

Ms. Bufford’s good friend and co-producer of the evening Sandy Fisher introduced Carole to the enthusiastic Cafe Centro audience.

Next up in the Fisher/Sorokoff Cabaret series is Dawn Derrow on March 12, and on April 24th one of the hottest acts in show business “The New Belters” Seth Sikes & Nicolas King will be bringing their music to  Cafe Centro.

CAROLE J. BUFFORD

HERE’S CAROLE!

CAROLE J. BUFFORD

CAROLE J. BUFFORD

CAROLE J. BUFFORD

CAROLE J. BUFFORD & SANFORD FISHER

STEPHEN SOROKOFF & CAROLE J. BUFFORD

EDA SOROKOFF, GIO MOLLA, RON ABEL, SANFORD FISHER

ROB RUSSELL, CAROLE J. BUFFORD, RON ABEL

DAWN DEROW & CAROLE J. BUFFORD

JEFF LEIBOWITZ & ROB RUSSELL

SANFORD FISHER & ISANNE FISHER

PETER CALO

CAFE CENTRO

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Cabaret

My View: Direct From Florida..The King’s Academy Jazz Ensemble Heats Up 54 Below

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Spectacular, awe-inspiring, and sensational were all words being uttered by the audience after The King’s Academy Jazz Ensemble’s high-energy, horn-powered, Big Apple style weekend performance at the iconic 54 Below Club. In that intimate and elegant room, these students matched the part with their classy black suits and stunning stylish dresses. Their debut show in New York City called “Students of the Songbook” gifted listeners with a youthful and reimagined spin on many jazz favorites. TKA Jazz performed with a level of confidence and excellence often reserved for season veterans.

Band Leader Wes Lowe hosted the night of jazz. Due to the limited space on the stage, Mr. Lowe introduced the songs and players stage right. He would then step off stage allowing his band of twenty high school and middle school students to masterfully make their instruments sing as he trusted them to navigate the night musically under their own direction.

Between lead trombonist Julia Basile who wowed the audience with her rendition of Black Orpheus, Julia Drahos on lead trumpet, and Stephen Boylan on lead alto sax, the lead horns kept a tight energetic performance all night. The rhythm section of drummer Ashton Horne, bassist Hadiya Stewart, and pianist Breck Dorow played in the pocket behind the horns in absolute perfection. Early on I noticed how young middle school trumpeter William Smith phrased like Louis Armstrong, letting his solo melodies breathe as they also swung. Soon however, I realized that they all did this as well. This young band of instrumentalists and soloists play well beyond their years.

Changing up the mood, Wes Lowe called upon several beautiful and talented ladies to add their vocal talents to the night. Ella Garcia, although new to the group, sang classics such as “It Had to Be You” with a soulful tone. Current Young Artist Award Winner from the Society for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, Maddie Begin, sang show-stopping numbers such as “Feeling Good” and “But The World Goes Round.” She is a name to remember with a powerhouse voice you won’t forget. And making a surprise appearance, TKA Jazz alumni Annie Matot graced the stage singing the classic “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” These young women took the audience from sing-along moments to complete moments of absolute awe.

In addition to TKA Director of Instrumental Arts and Band Leader Wes Lowe entertaining skillfully as the host, his colleague, Associate Director of Instrumental Arts, Mickey Smith Jr. also played the hottest solo of the night with his rendition of the Bill Wither’s classic “Just the Two of Us” on the alto sax. With that being said, everyone’s solos packed melodic invention in a confident swagger. Even more fun were the breathtaking syncopated conversations when the horns all played full force. The energy in the room was palpable for the entire evening. This was a hot performance on a cold night in New York City at 54 Below that was above and beyond anything anyone could have expected.

WES LOWE, DIRECTOR

THE KING’S ACADEMY JAZZ ENSEMBLE.   

MICKEY SMITH JR.

THE KING’S ACADEMY JAZZ ENSEMBLE

MADDIE BEGIN

ANNIE MATOT

JULIA BASILE

THE KING’S ACADEMY JAZZ ENSEMBLE

MADDIE BEGIN

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Cabaret

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: André De Shields and Marc Shaiman

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In 1984, André De Shields’ Haarlem Nocturne opened on Broadway at the Latin Quarter.  Now, 78-year-old showstopper De Shields is back at 54 Below February 20 – 24, 2024 with a celebration of his eponymous Broadway musical from four decades ago. Expect roof-raising recreations of the beloved music from the show, never-before-heard stories, and even a reunion or two, as well as the wit, elegance and charm that the master entertainer has become known for.

Marc Shaiman and Ken

When asked about his “Bad Boy” image while doing press for Haarlem Nocturne in 1984, De Shields said, “People are under the impression that artists aren’t supposed to think or be plugged into the bloodline of the country, the world- socially, politically, or otherwise. I take exception to that. We are not dummies and as for me, my work has to reflect more than just the obvious singing and dancing. I must take chances. Without risk there is no reason to do it. And when those risks result in opening doors, I like to leave them open so others can walk through.”

After decades filled with taking risks and opening doors, De Shields reflects on a peak career moment with this very special anniversary concert.

In an illustrious career that has spanned more than half a century, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an actor, director, and educator. His notable theatrical appearances include roles in the original Broadway productions of The Full Monty (Tony Award® nomination), Play On! (Tony Award® nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award) and the title role in The Wiz. De Shields was the triple-crown winner of the 2019 award season, garnering Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Awards for his universally praised role as the messenger to the gods, Hermes, in Hadestown.

In 2020, he received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the 2020 AUDELCO for Lifetime Achievement and the 2020 Red Bull Theater Matador Award for Excellence in Classical Theater. 2019 honors include The Actors’ Equity Foundation Richard Seff Award, which honors veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year, the Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, and The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, among others. He was also inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Among his other accolades are the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance.

Kenny, Marc, Scott, Stanley

André De Shields is being accompanied by Original Musical Director and Cast Member Marc Shaiman.

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Cabaret

My View: Cast Party Celebrates Billy Stritch’s Birthday ( Also Other People)

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Two of the worst kept show-biz secrets in February were the birthdays of Jim Caruso ( last Monday) and Billy Stritch, (last night).  Word got out on every social media platform and the lines to get a seat at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party stretched down 44th street to the Birdland front door.  I’m a senior member of the Cast Party alum who has had way too many birthday celebrations at the club. I can attest to the fact that it’s one of the most fun filled and musically exciting places to be in with friends for your big day.  Being with friends Christine Ebersole and Bill Moloney, along with Doug Major, Christina Rose and Lionel Casseroux to celebrate Billy’s birthday made it extra special.  It was also extra special to see Klea Blackhurst and Susie Mosher start the evening off by presenting the birthday cake to Billy, and how about having long time Billy friend and occasional partner in music Two Time Tony-Award Winner Christine Ebersole on Caruso’s open mic list? Yes it was a special evening for our special friend Billy Stritch.

Here are some cell phone pics

BILLY STRITCH, KLEA BLACKHURST, SUSIE MOSHER, JIM CARUSO

CHRISTINE EBERSOLE & JIM CARUSO

EDA SOROKOFF & CHRISTINE EBERSOLE

DOUG MAJOR, JULIE BENKO, BILLY STRITCH, CHRISTINE EBERSOLE

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